A THREE-DAY curfew has been imposed on Umuahia and Aba as the government of Abia State battles to stem a major security problem.
There has been a clash between soldiers and members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) in the state, prompting Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to take the action.
The stay-at-home will run betwem 6pm and 6am for the period, the governor said in a statement he personally signed yesterday.
Abia has been under security focus because of the activities of the separatist group and its leader Nnamdi Kanu.
Last week the Army deployed troops for “Operation Python Dance 2”. During a “show of force” on Sunday, Kanu alleged that troops shot and injured his men near his Umuahia home.
But the military said its men only shot into the air to scare away a mob that threw stones at its convoy.
There was tension in different parts of Aba, as soldiers reportedly clashed with members of IPOB.It could not be confirmed if anybody died in the fracas.
Some members of IPOB who left Aba for Umuahia in solidarity with Kanu were alleged to have been stopped by soldiers at Isiala Ngwa junction on the Enugu/Port Harcourt Expressway.
The IPOB members who escaped after being stopped by the soldiers were said to have met another set of soldiers at Osisioma Junction, a few kilometers away. A face-off reportedly ensued.
The soldiers were said to have shot sporadically into the air while the IPOB members moved towards Ariaria International Market. There was confusion. People ran helter skelter.
The chaos at Osisioma stretched beyond Ariaria market to the Flyover Junction, a distance of over eight kilometres. Some vehicles were destroyed. Many people were injured.
There was pandemonium within the city centre as soldiers cordoned off roads leading to the Aba Central Mosque to prevent hoodlums from vandalising the facility.
They shot into the air to ward off intruders, and people ran for their lives. Traders hurriedly closed their business.
Ikpeazu said: “Government notes and has observed the frenzy of activities of members of IPOB within Afara – Umuahia, the ancestral home of the leader of IPOB for some months now.
“Government is equally aware of the recent proclamation by the Nigerian Army of Operation Python Dance II within the Southeast geopolitical region of Nigeria.
“The operation as declared by the Army is intended to check kidnapping, banditry, assassination, secessionist activities within the region, amongst other forms of criminal activities.
“The recent confrontation between the Nigerian Army and members of IPOB on Sunday, 10th September, 2017, could presumably be attributed to the commencement of the said Operation Python Dance II.
“The Abia State government unequivocally states that Abia is a component State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and subscribes to the supremacy of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and all other extant laws.
“While the government of Abia State recognises the right of the Nigerian Army and other security agencies, to perform their statutory duty of protection of lives and property of Nigerian citizens, such duties must be carried out within acclaimed Nigerian and international standards of engagement with the civil populace, with due respect to the human rights of citizens and sanctity of human lives.
“The Abia State government is committed to the protection of the lives and properties of its citizens and others residing and doing business within the geographical entity called Abia State.
“Abians and others living within Abia are advised to remain law abiding and carry on their lawful business without fear, as efforts by government will be made to reduce friction between the civil populace and military personnel in the State.
“Abia residents are advised to observe a curfew from 6pm to 6amfrom today 12/09/2017 to 14/09/2017.
“Persons residing within the State are strongly advised to remain law abiding, while going about their lawful business without fear of molestation, and, not engage in any form of confrontation with military personnel or other security agents.
“The government recognises the constitutional Right to Freedom of Movement for all Nigerians, but objects to the influx of people into Abia State for purposes of unsettling the enduring peace in the State.
“Abia State will co–operate with security agencies to maintain the rule of law and order in the State.”
The Southeast Governors’ Forum set up a seven-man committee to probe the Sunday clash between the Army and IPOB members in Umuahia.
Mr Michael Udah, the forum’s Director of Media and Communications, in a statement, said the committee was expected to submit its report during the forum’s meeting on Friday.
Udah did not mention the leader of the committee, but said that it was set-up to proffer lasting solutions to such problems and forestall future occurrences.
Udah said the governors were consulting with stakeholders in the zone, including the military, to ensure clarity of positions.